Market research is often essential for a business to get in touch with its customers and know that the public wants. Conducting it in the right way however is also essential, as it affects the validity of any study carried out.
The first thing you should decide is what particular aspect of market research you need to use. If you are looking to either launch or assess a products public perception, then you should probably look into customer surveys and questionnaires. Similarly if you are looking to determine your market segment then you should profile customers. You should also set out here what it is you are trying to find out, and what your eventual aim is after gaining the information.
Types of Data
There are two main types of data that can be collected, and the most productive research should generally utilize both for the best overall picture of the market .
Quantitative data is numerically based, and provides information that is quick and easy to process, but can be somewhat limited in that it produces fixed results and doesn't allow for additional and potentially useful information to be gathered. For example asking the public how often they might buy a particular product doesn't answer the question of why they buy a particular amount of said product.
Qualitative date is information which has no right or wrong answer and is generally more opinion based. The benefit of qualitative data is that it can tap into the public perception of a brand or business and assess where improvements need to be made to make products more appealing. The drawback is that public opinion isn't always in line with what they might tend to purchase. For example most people when asked will support the idea of fair trade products. Most however will then continue to buy non-fairtrade products in their everyday lives.
Identifying a Target Market
Most businesses have a clear idea of who their products are aimed at and who by and large is buying them. This is known as the market segment that they are targeting, and the more data a business has on their customers the more they can tailor their products to these customers.
If a businesses' products aren't specifically designed and targeted to a particular market already, they can then procure this information by profiling their customers and looking at what kind of people buy most of their products. This is most often required when a product has general appeal but may be bought mainly by a certain type of customer. For example a generic product such as toilet paper is something that anyone might buy, but tends to market itself towards women as they tend to purchase it most often.
If you are using surveys and focus groups to get customer opinions, then you need to be careful not to use leading or bias questions. If a consumer knows which company is asking them the questions, then they are more likely to reply how they think the company wants to hear. This can then lead to false and invalid research being collected.
Because of thing many companies choose to use outside researchers for this process, or at least make sure that information about them is left off any surveys.
Assessing trends and changes within the market is another form of market research that should always be looked into. This might be looking at your company's competition and how well they are doing, or might be new products and how sales have been affected by them. This is particularly important for new businesses starting up, or for launching new products.
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